January 23, 2010, 0:07 a.m. National Review
Too Much of a Bad Thing
Who’s panting for Obama speech number 412? Exactly no one.
By Mark Steyn
So what went wrong? According to Barack Obama, the problem is he overestimated you dumb rubes’ ability to appreciate what he’s been doing for you. “That I do think is a mistake of mine,” the president told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos. “I think the assumption was if I just focus on policy, if I just focus on this provision or that law or if we’re making a good rational decision here, then people will get it.”
But you schlubs aren’t that smart. You didn’t get it. And Barack Obama is determined to see that you do. So the president has decided that he needs to start “speaking directly to the American people.”
Wait, wait! Come back! Don’t all stampede for the hills! He only gave (according to CBS News’s Mark Knoller) 158 interviews and 411 speeches in his first year. That’s more than any previous president — and maybe more than all of them put together. But there may still be some show out there that didn’t get its exclusive Obama interview — I believe the top-rated Grain & Livestock Prices Report — 4 a.m. Update with Herb Torpormeister on WZZZ-AM Dead Buzzard Gulch Junction’s Newstalk Leader is still waiting to hear back from the White House.
But what will the president be saying in all these extra interviews? In that interview about how he hadn’t given enough interviews, he also explained to George Stephanopoulos what that wacky Massachusetts election was all about:
“The same thing that swept Scott Brown into office swept me into office,” said Obama. “People are angry and they’re frustrated, not just because of what’s happened in the last year or two years but what’s happened over the last eight years.”
Got it. People are so angry and frustrated at George W. Bush that they’re voting for Republicans. In Massachusetts. Boy, I can’t wait for that 159th interview.
Presumably, the president isn’t stupid enough actually to believe what he said. But it’s dispiriting to discover he’s stupid enough to think we’re stupid enough to believe it.
So who’s panting for that 412th speech? Not the American Left. As Paul Krugman, the New York Times’s “Conscience of a Liberal,” put it: “He Wasn’t The One We’ve Been Waiting For.”
Not the once-delirious Europeans, either. As the headline in Der Spiegel put it: “The World Bids Farewell to Obama.”
And not any beleaguered Democratic candidates trying to turn things around in volatile swing states like, er, Massachusetts. The Barack Obama who showed up last Sunday to help out Martha Coakley was a sad and diminished figure from the colossus of a year ago. He had nothing to say, but he said it anyway. As he did with his Copenhagen pitch for the Olympics, he put his personal prestige on the line, raised the stakes, and then failed to deliver. All those cool kids on his speech-writing team bogged him down in the usual leaden sludge. He went to the trouble of flying in to phone it in.
The most striking aspect of his performance was how unhappy he looked, as if he doesn’t enjoy the job. You can understand why. He ran as something he’s not, and never has been: a post-partisan, centrist, trans formative healer. That’d be a difficult trick to pull off even for somebody with any prior executive experience, someone who’d actually run something, like a state, or even a town, or even a commercial fishing operation, like that poor chillbilly boob Sarah Palin. At one point late in the 2008 campaign, when someone suggested that if Governor Palin was “unqualified” then surely he was too, Obama pointed out as evidence to the contrary his ability to run such an effective campaign. In other words, running for president was his main qualification for being president.
That was the story of his life: Wow! Look at this guy! Wouldn’t it be great to have him . . . as community organizer, as state representative, as state senator, as United States senator. He was wafted ever upwards, staying just long enough in each “job” to get another notch on the escutcheon, but never long enough to leave any trace.
The defining moment of his doomed attempt to prop up Martha Coakley was his peculiar obsession with Scott Brown’s five-year-old pickup:
“Forget the ads. Everybody can run slick ads,” the president told an audience of out-of-state students at a private school. “Forget the truck. Everybody can buy a truck.”
How they laughed! But what was striking was the thinking behind Obama’s line: that anyone can buy a truck for a slick ad, that Brown’s pickup was a prop — like the herd of cows Al Gore rented for a pastoral backdrop when he launched his first presidential campaign. Or the Iron Chef TV episode featuring delicious, healthy recipes made with produce direct from Michelle Obama’s “kitchen garden”: The cameras filmed the various chefs meeting the first lady and then picking choice organic delicacies from the White House crop, and then for the actual cooking the show sent out for stunt-double vegetables from a grocery back in New York. Viewed from Obama’s perspective, why wouldn’t you assume the truck’s just part of the set? “In his world,” wrote The Weekly Standard’s Stephen Hayes, “everything is political and everything is about appearances.”
Howard Fineman, the increasingly loopy editor of the increasingly doomed Newsweek, took it a step further. The truck wasn’t just any old prop but a very particular kind: “In some places, there are codes, there are images,” he told MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann. “You know, there are pickup trucks, you could say there was a racial aspect to it one way or another.”
Ah, yes. Scott Brown has over 200,000 miles on his odometer. Man, he’s racked up a lot of coded racism on that rig. But that’s easy to do in notorious cross-burning KKK swamps like suburban Massachusetts.
Whenever aspiring writers ask me for advice, I usually tell ’em this:
Don’t just write there, do something. Learn how to shingle a roof, or tap-dance, or raise sled dogs. Because if you don’t do anything, you wind up like Obama and Fineman — men for whom words are props and codes and metaphors but no longer expressive of anything real.
America is becoming a bilingual society, divided between those who think a pickup is a rugged vehicle useful for transporting heavy-duty items from A to B and those who think a pickup is coded racism.
Unfortunately, the latter group forms most of the Democrat-media one-party state currently running the country. Can you imagine Bill Clinton being so stupid as to put down pickup trucks while standing next to John Kerry? And what’s even more extraordinary is that those lines were written for Obama by paid professionals.
But fine, have it your way. Tuesday’s vote was really a plea by a desperate people for even more Obama. We’re going to need even more Obama teleprompters, even more Obama speeches, even more sonorous banalities unrelated to action, even more “Let me be clears” prefacing even more tinny generalities, on even more reams of even more double-spaced paper. And we’re gonna need a really heavy-duty rig to carry all that verbiage.
Maybe Scott Brown can sell ’em his truck.